The Seasonal Worker Programme (SWP), which allows workers from the Pacific and Timor-Leste to work on Australian farms for up to nine months, grew by 44% in 2018-19 or by some 3,000 workers – the largest absolute increase ever and one of the highest percentage growth rates.
While slow to find its feet compared to the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme, the SWP surpassed Pacific RSE participation in 2018-19. And expect the gap to widen. New Zealand continues to cap RSE numbers. The cap is reviewed regularly (annually since 2014) with the latest revision in November 2018 to 12,850 workers, a 16% increase on the previous year’s cap. Caps on worker numbers for the SWP were removed some years ago, allowing for much more rapid growth of the SWP in response to market demands. One prediction is for SWP demand in Australia to reach 37,500 seasonal work opportunities by 2030.